Having a good conscience - The testimony of God in your own soul, that in simplicity and godly sincerity you have your conversation in the world. See on the term conscience at the end of Hebrews.
Whereas they speak evil of you - See the same sentiment in 1 Peter 2:11; and the note there.
Having a good conscience - That is, a conscience that does not accuse you of having done wrong. Whatever may be the accusations of your enemies, so live that you may be at all times conscious of uprightness. Whatever you suffer, see that you do not suffer the pangs inflicted by a guilty conscience, the anguish of remorse. On the meaning of the word “conscience,” see the notes at Romans 2:15. The word properly means the judgment of the mind respecting right and wrong; or the judgment which the mind passes on the immorality of its own actions, when it instantly approves or condemns them. There is always a feeling of obligation connected with operations of conscience, which precedes, attends, and follows our actions. “Conscience is first occupied in ascertaining our duty, before we proceed to action; then in judging of our actions when performed.” A “good conscience” implies two things:
(1) That it be properly enlightened to know what is right and wrong, or that it be not under the dominion of ignorance, superstition, or fanaticism, prompting us to do what would be a violation of the divine law; and,
(2) that its dictates must always be obeyed. Without the first of these - clear views of that which is right and wrong - conscience becomes an unsafe guide; for it merely prompts us to do what we esteem to be right, and if our views of what is right and wrong are erroneous, we may be prompted to do what may be a direct violation of the law of God. Paul thought he “ought” to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth Acts 26:9; the Saviour said, respecting his disciples, that the time would come when whosoever should kill them would think that they were doing God service, John 16:2; and Solomon says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death,” Proverbs 14:12; Proverbs 16:25 Under an unenlightened and misguided conscience, with the plea and pretext of religion, the most atrocious crimes have been committed; and no man should infer that he is certainly doing right, because he follows the promptings of conscience.
No man, indeed, should act against the dictates of his conscience; but there may have been a previous wrong in not using proper means to ascertain what is right. Conscience is not revelation, nor does it answer the purpose of a revelation. It communicates no new truth to the soul, and is a safe guide only so far as the mind has been properly enlightened to see what is truth and duty. Its office is “to prompt us to the performance of duty,” not “to determine what is right.” The other thing requisite that we may have a good conscience is, that its decisions should be obeyed. Conscience is appointed to be the “vicegerent” of God in inflicting punishment, if his commands are not obeyed. It pronounces a sentence on our own conduct. Its penalty is remorse; and that penalty will be demanded if its promptings be not regarded. It is an admirable device, as a part of the moral government of God, urging man to the performance of duty, and, in case of disobedience, making the mind its own executioner.
There is no penalty that will more certainly be inflicted, sooner or later, than that incurred by a guilty conscience. It needs no witnesses; no process for arresting the offender; no array of judges and executioners; no stripes, imprisonment, or bonds. Its inflictions will follow the offender into the most secluded retreat; overtake him in his most rapid flight; find him out in northern snows, or on the sands of the equator; go into the most splendid palaces, and seek out the victim when he is safe from all the vengeance that man can inflict; pursue him into the dark valley of the shadow of death, or arrest him as a fugitive in distant worlds. No one, therefore, can over-estimate the importance of having a good conscience. A true Christian should aim, by incessant study and prayer, to know what is right, and then always do it, no matter what may be the consequences.
As of evildoers - See the notes at 1 Peter 2:12.
They may be ashamed - They may see that they have misunderstood your conduct, and regret that they have treated you as they have. We should expect, if we are faithful and true, that even our enemies will yet appreciate our motives, and do us justice. Compare Psalm 37:5-6.
That falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ - Your good conduct as Christians. They may accuse you of insincerity, hypocrisy, dishonesty; of being enemies of the state, or of monstrous crimes; but the time will come when they will see their error, and do you justice. See the notes at 1 Peter 2:12.
The enemy well knows that if we do not have love one for another, he can gain his object, and wound and weaken the church, by causing differences among brethren. He can lead them to surmise evil, to speak evil, to accuse, condemn, and hate one another. In this way the cause of God is brought into dishonor, the name of Christ is reproached, and untold harm is done to the souls of men. TDG 165.3Read in context »
God gave direction to the Israelites to assemble before Him at set periods in the place which He should choose, and observe special days, wherein no unnecessary work was to be done, but the time was to be devoted to a consideration of the blessings which He had bestowed upon them. At these special seasons the manservant and maidservant, the stranger, the fatherless and widow—all were directed to rejoice that God had by His own wonderful power brought them from servile bondage to the enjoyment of freedom. And they were commanded not to appear before the Lord empty-handed. They were to bring tokens of their gratitude to God for His continual mercies and blessings bestowed upon them; they were to bring gifts, freewill offerings and thank offerings unto the Lord, as He had blessed them. These offerings were varied according to the donor's estimate of the blessings which he was privileged to enjoy. Thus the characters of the people were plainly developed. Those who placed a high value upon the blessings which God bestowed upon them brought offerings in accordance with this appreciation of His blessings. Those whose moral powers were stupefied and benumbed by selfishness and idolatrous love of the favors received, rather than inspired by fervent love for their bountiful Benefactor, brought meager offerings. Thus their hearts were revealed. Besides these special religious feast days of gladness and rejoicing, the yearly Passover was to be commemorated by the Jewish nation. The Lord covenanted that, if they were faithful in the observance of His requirements, He would bless them in all their increase, and in all the works of their hands. 2T 598.1Read in context »
Some were making the matter of dress of first importance, criticizing articles of dress worn by others, and standing ready to condemn everyone who did not exactly meet their ideas. A few condemned pictures, urging that they are prohibited by the second commandment, and that everything of this kind should be destroyed. 2SM 319.1
These one-idea men can see nothing except to press the one thing that presents itself to their minds. Years ago we had to meet this same spirit and work. Men arose claiming to have been sent with a message condemning pictures, and urging that every likeness of anything should be destroyed. They went to such lengths as even to condemn clocks which had figures, or “pictures,” upon them. 2SM 319.2
Now we read in the Bible of a good conscience; and there are not only good but bad consciences. There is a conscientiousness that will carry everything to extremes, and make Christian duties as burdensome as the Jews made the observance of the Sabbath. The rebuke which Jesus gave to the scribes and Pharisees applies to this class as well: “Ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God” (Luke 11:42). One fanatic, with his strong spirit and radical ideas, who will oppress the conscience of those who want to be right, will do great harm. The church needs to be purified from all such influences. 2SM 319.3Read in context »
This pretense of conscientiousness has been pretty thoroughly tested and proved. I speak understandingly when I tell you that I have very little confidence in his conscientiousness. There is a good conscience and a bad conscience, and the man is most thoroughly deceived in himself. Under this deception he will do many things in his own spirit that are not in harmony with the Spirit of God. Yet he will be as immovable as a rock to counsel or to any way except his own way.—Letter 48, 1892. 2MCP 725.2Read in context »